WIAA board votes to keep boys tournament in Madison, move girls

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The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association board voted on Tuesday to keep the state boys basketball tournament in Madison, but move the girls tourney to the Green Bay area.

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The WIAA Board of Control met in Stevens Point Tuesday afternoon and voted unanimously to keep the boys tournament in Madison through 2020, with a guarantee that the tournament will be in the Kohl Center the second weekend in March for the next two years.

The girls tournament will be held in Green Bay through 2014. The WIAA the said there was no availability for the girls tournament at the Kohl Center, but after 2014 it could move again.

The WIAA has been considering the move because the Kohl Center in Madison might have scheduling conflicts with Big Ten hockey.

In February, the organization said it would enter into a five-year agreement with the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon if the University of Wisconsin couldn’t accommodate the tournaments.

WIAA leaders said that with increased attendance last year, they needed the Kohl Center to accommodate all the fans for the boys tournament. 

“I’m very grateful for the perseverance on the part of the UW and the city of Madison. We had honest problems with dates and venues, not with a city, not with people,” said Dave Anderson, WIAA executive director.

A poll among girls basketball coaches indicated that most wanted the tournament to stay in Madison, and the WIAA said it struggled with that. But in the end, WIAA leaders said the move to Green Bay just made sense because of scheduling and the fact that they consider the Resch Center to be the second best venue in the state for a tournament like this, next to the Kohl Center.

The WIAA also said the move could help highlight the girls tournament, making it more of an exclusive event that won’t have to compete with many other events in Madison that weekend, such as a hockey tournament.

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The boys tournament has been held in Madison for 92 years. The girls tournament has been in Madison since it began in 1976.

In Madison, the reaction to the WIAA vote to keep the boys tournament in Madison was a sign of relief, especially after the sense that the city was close to losing all the tournaments.

The Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the boys basketball tournament brings in $6 million of activity to the city at restaurants, hotels and shops, especially in the State Street and downtown area.

The girls tournament’s economic impact is estimated at $3 million, and despite that loss for a couple of years, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said that it’s a good outcome overall.

“I just can’t see how it could have been any better. It’s better than anything we expected especially given the direction things seemed to be going four or five months ago,” Soglin said.

“I’m totally excited. What a great tradition to remain in Madison and it’s the kids who bring such energy and enthusiasm, such school spirit, coming in from all over the state; we couldn’t be happier,” said Brenda Baril, general manager of Madison Sole on State Street,

Baril said the tournament always has a positive impact at a low time of the year. Because the tournaments have around for so long, Baril said she can’t say exactly what the impact will be of one tournament leaving.

The mayor lauded the team that worked to keep the boys tournament in Madison, which included the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. Convention and Visitors Bureau officials said they will be prepared to fight for the girls tournament in 2015 and the boys again in 2020.